The Athlete's Guide to Exercise-Induced Asthma
Exercise-induced asthma shouldn't keep you from working out. Here's how to keep your symptoms under control.
Is it Exercise-Induced Asthma?
Are you really experiencing exercise-induced asthma, or is it chronic asthma
"It depends, and that's one of the difficulties," says Craig.
"Does a person truly have exercise-induced asthma, or is their asthma
unstable and just manifesting with exercise?"
It might be chronic asthma if your asthma symptoms continue to flare after
taking albuterol, or if they are triggered by things like cigarette smoke and
"If the effects of albuterol only last for a short while, you may have
underlying significant inflammation and not realize it," says Craig.
"That means you have poorly controlled asthma, and you need to be seen by a
physician and possibly be on an anti-inflammatory agent on a regular
Sports for Avoiding Exercise-Induced Asthma
When it comes to exercise-induced asthma, warmer is better.
"It seems to be associated with mainly people who are, for instance,
skaters in cold, dry areas, or skiers doing really excessive exercise in a cold
and dry environment," says Craig. "The cold and dry air is one of the
greatest stimuli for inducing bronchospasm."
Along with cold-weather activity, sports with sustained periods of running
or exertion are more likely to trigger exercise-induced asthma. They
- Field hockey
- Long-distance running
- Cross-country skiing
According to the AAAAI, sports that are less likely to trigger
exercise-induced asthma symptoms include:
- Leisure biking
- Free downhill skiing
- Short-distance track and field events
Whatever your sport of choice, exercise-induced asthma -- or even chronic
asthma -- is no excuse to park it on the couch.
At the Olympic level,20% of elite athletes have asthma. In fact, at the 1998
Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, 23% of the Olympians were shown to have
exercise-induced asthma after testing.
But exercise-induced asthma doesn't have to slow you down. At the 1996
Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 30% of U.S. Olympians who had asthma or
took asthma medications won team or individual medals in competition,
performing just as well as non-asthmatic athletes.
Exercise-Induced Asthma: Tips for Kids
Diagnosing exercise-induced asthma in children can be difficult because the
symptoms can be subtle.
For instance, kids with exercise-induced asthma might:
- Complain of not being able to run as fast as their friends.
- Express a dislike for sports because they can't compete as well as the
- Avoid physical activities altogether.
If your child is reluctant to engage in sports or other physical activities,
consult your pediatrician.
Treatment of exercise-induced asthma can help keep your child active.
"I don't like to make invalids out of my asthma patients," says
Richard Honsinger, MD, of the Los Alamos Medical Care Clinic in New Mexico.
"If you have a child who has exercise-induced asthma, work with the teacher
and send albuterol to school so your child can be pre-treated with albuterol
before they go out to recess. This is often the way to get children to engage
in normal activities."
Send a letter to school with the medicine, or schedule a visit with the
school nurse, your child's teacher, coach, or gym teacher to discuss important
aspects of exercise-induced asthma. These include:
- The nature of your child's exercise-induced asthma.
- Medications used to prevent symptoms and how to use them properly.
- Other techniques to prevent attacks, like warming up before recess.
- Warning signs of an asthma episode.
- Contact information in case of emergency, including a phone number for your